“The Farm”

“The Farm’
© 2021 by Michael L. Utley

Nighthawks scream
With evening’s descent
They know the truth
Black god’s-eyes
See everything
From salmon-hued
As wings fold
Bird-bombs dive
Preying on the
A mindless alien-avian
Turn back
There is no hope here

Across the fallow field
Elk bugle mournfully in
Twilight cacophony
A hundred dim smudges
Herding in
Paranoid precision
Against the dusty dun of
Evening’s solemn soliloquy
Amidst dusk ground-mist
Trumpet-cries betray blind fear
A prose of unearthly moans
As pinyon-sage-scented breeze
Lifts this omen skyward
Turn back
There is no hope here

Dead-yellow foxtails
And cheatgrass
As I pass
A sickly meadow of
Thin-boned weeds
And cloying sage
Crackling underfoot as
Stickers pin-cushion
Socks and shoelaces
Ground beetles
And spiders flee
Dissolve into
Cracked earth
Each footstep
The shrill trill of crickets
They know, too
Turn back, they sing
There is no hope here

A skeleton crew of
Haggard, stunted trees
Stands sentinel
Against the coming darkness
Pinyons felled by
Insidious Ips beetles
Sap-dried cones
Long dead
Among carpets of
Desiccated yellowed needles and
Sparrow-emptied pine nut shells
Tinder awaiting a wildfire
Fragrant junipers stand
Amidst dead-berry piles in
Shaggy bark-suits
Peeling like scorched dusty
Sun-burnt skin
Swarming with black ants
Pungent piss-scent
Overwhelming as
Paper-bark crawls
In the shadows
The subliminal hiss of an
Errant breeze
Wheezes dark portents
Among barkless boughs
Turn back
There is no hope here

Muffled yips and
Strangled howls
Ride chilly currents from
Far obscure fields
As coyotes practice
Weird secret sorcery
In the gloaming
The cries of the damned
Of pain
Of madness
Of red-eyed tricksters
In shadow-garb
Preparing for midnight hunts
And the tearing of flesh
Yellow grins reeking of
Fear and dead meat
Champ and drool as
Festivities draw near
Their primal chaos-chorus
Announcing to all
Turn back
There is no hope here

In hushed
Sepulchral silence
Muted coos of
Mourning doves
Float softly in
Penitential pleas
Stillness magnifying
Lilting lamentation
Grief too much to bear
Their sorrow-song
An ache that
Never ends
Rends hearts
Cleaves souls
Tears flow
Purity and
Immeasurable loss
A calming balm
Inadequate to heal
All that ails
Ineffectual against
Forces of fear
Reduced to a
Whispered admonition
Turn back
There is no hope here

The broken garden gate
Aslant on rusted hinges
Unleveling the horizon
Of faded, ephemeral corn stalks
And rotting squash-husks
A tangle of ancient weeds
And briar bushes
Encases this bleak place
Age-drained of all
Color and scent
Poisonous soil
Long since emptied of life
Only dead things grow here
Rows of sorrow
Trellises of despair
A forlorn bounty of
Loss and regret
A stilled silence
Turn back
There is no hope here

The house
A gray thing
Hunched against
The gloom of
Bruise-tinted sky
Like some
Feral beast
Skull-socket eyes
Through diseased elms
As cement tongue lolls
Cracked and pitted
From front door
To yard gate
Lawn only a distant memory
Littered with
Shattered window glass
And random roof shingles



It’s been years
Since I was here
Since I fled
Since that day
The monster was real then
The fear was real
And it’s been with me
All the while

Concrete dust crunches
Bone-like underfoot
I reach the front door
Push through a
Latticework of spider-silk
Filled with memories
So many memories
Dust and the scent of
Ancient mildew
Rotting wood
Hang in mote-filled air
It’s smaller now
Ceiling plaster
Coats rotting carpet
In a patina of snow
Water-stained drywall
Bent and bulging
My room is there
Dark and cobwebby
Sisters’ bedroom
Parents’ room
Everything accounted for
Except the monster

There is no hope here
Dead monsters leave
Memory echoes
Down the years
A legacy of pain and fear
And while there is
No monster here
Neither is there reason
For rejoicing
This place is dead
Just like my father
The monster
Nothing will ever be
As it was
So much lost
Still more buried in
Dark locked crates
In my mind
I look around
One final time
Then make my way
Out the door
And into the night

It’s time to leave
The farm behind


“Grandfather” (Part 1)
© 2012 by Michael L. Utley
The twitching thing that lay upon the bed
Was not my grandfather.  It wore his face
And smelled of him, old coffee and a trace
Of cigarettes.  Its eyes were rimmed with red
And rheumy and they twinkled in its head
Like distant dying stars.  And in that place
Deep down inside where man and mind embrace
My grandfather had lost his mind and fled.
Where did he go, that man I once had known?
What horrors did he see, what eldritch lies
Ensnared him in the darkness and the din
Of lunacy?  And was he all alone?
He was; I saw it in his weeping eyes
And in the tremble of his wretched grin.


“Friction” (Part 2)
© 2012 by Michael L. Utley
The friction between
Two blades of grass
In a breeze
Is enough to
Shatter continents
The old man said
Look there—
And he blew his
Old man’s breath across the
Dead-yellow backyard lawn
Antarctica—it were nice knowin ye!
And his bib-overalled belly
Shook with seismic tremors
Of raspy cigarette-scented
And his age-dimmed eyes
Almost sparkled in their
Crevasse of wrinkles
And I grabbed his sandpaper hand
And choked back tears
The flavor of oceans
And I held my breath
Too afraid to breathe


“Five Seconds” (Part 3)
© 2012 by Michael L. Utley
The old man speaks to me
Across the decades
Soundless words
Forever trapped in
Ninety frames of
Grainy Super-8
He walks away
Then turns at my
Teenaged beckoning
Hey, Grampa!
The shutter whirs
Like hummingbirds
Stealing a flower’s soul
Stealing my grandfather’s soul
The arcane machinations
Bending time and space
He is here in my machine
He is here
His Viking grin
His weathered overalls
His sweat-stained cap
His cologne of coffee and cigarettes
He stops
He speaks
I can’t hear his voice
Five seconds
He is alive
Five seconds
He is alive
I can’t hear his voice
He speaks to me across the decades
The silent film
Damning him
Damning me
I read his lips his eyes his smile
I will die soon
He seems to say
The strokes will be
Only the beginning
He seems to say
Everything will change
He seems to say
Everything but these
Five seconds I have with you
And you with me
And I am saying
Anything you wish
Anything you need me to say
Anytime you see me here
He turns
He smiles
He speaks
He walks away